This article analyzes the reorganization of public memory space in postsocialist Poland and how the state and municipal councils use it to legitimate themselves. Drawing on research conducted in Gdańsk, the birthplace of the social movement (Solidarność) that questioned the legitimacy of the socialist state in the 1980s, it examines the proposed redevelopment of the shipyard where the movement was formed. While the redevelopment sets out to create a public memory space, it is rife with contradictions, for it involves demolishing many buildings associated with the movement. What legitimated the municipal council’s authority over its memorial landscapes was not so much its rediscovery of complex local histories as it was its ability to define the local past in “material” terms.
Disability Memoirs in Socialist Poland
This article discusses disability memoirs written by mothers of disabled sons during state socialism in Poland. It recovers an often forgotten experience of living socialism as a mother of a disabled child and analyzes disability as a category of difference that, unlike gender or class, was not reordered by the socialist state. It argues that disability reconfigured motherhood as a political institution under state socialism and shows that a child’s disability permitted women to become politically disobedient subjects. Disability allowed women who were responsible for their children’s overcoming disability to make demands on the state and criticize it for the lack of sufficient accommodations and resources. At the same time, the article highlights the violence embedded in the relationship between a disabled son and his mother.
This paper seeks to offer an assessment of the nature of identity among Poland's German minority and to investigate why since 1950 large numbers of that minority have migrated to Germany. It does so by examining the nature of identity in the historic Polish-German borderlands, by recounting the experiences of those Germans who remained behind in Poland after the post World War Two expulsion process was completed in 1949, and by examining the continued salience of negative stereotypes of Germans and Germany among elements of Polish society. The paper highlights a number of salient factors of importance for members of the minority in deciding whether or not to stay in Poland or to migrate to Germany.
This article examines memories of socialism among different generations in Nowa Huta, Poland. Initially built as an industrial “model socialist town“, since 1989 Nowa Huta experienced economic decline and marginalization. Its socialist legacy is now being reinterpreted in ways that reflect changed political, economic, and social conditions. This article describes contemporary public representations of the town's history and considers how they resonate with the experiences and understandings of different generations of residents, from the town's builders to the youngest generation, who have no firsthand memories of the socialist period. It demonstrates how generational categories are both reflected and constructed through different accounts of the past, while also revealing overlaps between them. Throughout, specific attention is paid to the relationship between narratives of the past, present, and future, and present-day political and economic realities.
The agricultural situation in Poland has been changing significantly during the last decades. In 1989, the predictability of the communist centrally planned economy was replaced by the unexpectedness and "invisible hand" of the free market economy. The socialist welfare state has been replaced by new modes of support, introduced by European Union (EU). On the basis of fieldwork conducted between 2005 and 2008 in farming communities in eastern Poland, I focus on decision making among small-scale farmers. This article addresses decision-making processes and their sociocultural context, including the reasons for and circumstances behind decisions, and also elements of decision-making processes that tend to hinder the introduction of EU agricultural policy. In the course of adapting to new and changing realities, farmers creatively use customary ways of thinking and acting in the various decisions they have to make while running the farm. Changes of the very mechanisms of decision-making processes seem to be rather slow, however.
Spirituality and women's agency beyond the Catholic Church in Poland
This article looks at various models of women's agency in Poland in the context of religion. Based on fieldwork among members of two feminized religious milieus—a new religious movement the Brahma Kumaris and an informal Catholic fundamentalist group—this article discusses the role of silence in ritual and everyday life as a form of agency. From the perspective of feminist discourse, particularly Western liberal feminism, silence is often interpreted as a lack of power. Drawing on informants' experiences, under Polish gender regimes, particularly as they relate to the organization of public and private spheres, silence is shown to be a fundamental component of agency. The analysis of silence displays the complexity of religious issues in Poland and serves as a critique of assumptions about religious homogeneity and the pervasiveness of religious authority in Poland.
The Case of Lubuskie, Poland
Robert A. Parkin
While it can claim some historical depth, essentially Lubuskie is a new province in western Poland that emerged from the local government reforms of 1999. It is thus located in a part of the country taken over by Poland from Germany in 1945, which as a consequence experienced a complete replacement of populations (Polish for German) at that time. This makes the province a useful case in which to study the emergence of a new identity over time. At present its identity is not as strong as in the case of its neighbours like Silesia and Wielkopolska, though it is being cultivated where possible by some local bureaucrats and politicians. It is argued that it is nonetheless justified to study such cases in order to determine and account for differences in the strength of regional identities in the same nationstate. The wider framework is regional identities within Europe as part of the process of European integration and its articulation with nation-states in the EU.
The Poetry of Male and Female Political Prisoners in Postwar Poland
This essay explores a body of 340 poems created by political prisoners who were accused of and imprisoned for anti-state activity in late 1940s and 1950s Stalinist Poland. Evaluating prison poetry as a historical source, I understand the process of composing a poem as the result of a prisoner’s need to document the world around her/himself, as a psychological activity that contained diffi cult prison experiences, as a negotiation of emotional and often conflicting states, and as a social practice through which prison poets affected themselves and the people around them. Situated somewhere at the intersection of the personal and political, poetry became one of the most powerful sites of resistance. In addition to evaluating prison poetry as a historical source, this essay also explores gender differences and similarities in the body of 340 poems discussed here and in the social function of the prison poems.
The Motorway as a Space of Neoliberalism
The article surveys a giant infrastructural construction project in Poland: the A2 motorway, connecting Poznan´ and Warsaw with the Polish-German border. It was the first private motorway in Poland, and the biggest European infrastructural project, and was realized in a public-private partnership system. The last section of A2 was opened on 1 December 2011, which can be seen as a key moment in Polish socioeconomic transformation. I examine it on two levels: (1) a discourse between government and private investors in which the motorway was the medium of economic and social development and infrastructural “the end” modernization of Poland; (2) practices and opinions of local communities, living along the new motorway. On the first level, the construction of A2 was seen as an impetus for the economic and social development of the regions where the motorway was built. But on the second level, I observe almost universal disappointment and a deep crisis experienced by local economies.
Poland and Finland in a Contrastive Comparison, 1830–1907
Wiktor Marzec and Risto Turunen
This article presents a conceptual history of socialism in two Western borderlands of the Russian Empire—namely, the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Finland. A contrastive comparison is used to examine the birth, dissemination, and breakthrough of the concept from its first appearance until the Revolution of 1905. The concept entered Polish political conversation as a self-applied label among émigrés in the 1830s, whereas the opponents of socialism made it famous in Finland in the 1840s in Swedish and in the 1860s in Finnish. When socialism became a mass movement at the turn of the century, socialist parties (re)defined the concept through underground leaflets and brochures in Poland, and through a legal labor press in Finland. In both cases, the Revolution of 1905 meant the final democratization of socialism, attaching more meanings to the concept and making it the most discussed ism of modern politics.